pretending to faint from hunger when he didn’t like the meal she’d made, usually in the winter when stocks were running low and they were eating porridge for the fifth time in a week. But he never teased her for long because none of them could bear to see her sad.
‘There you are.’ Dad was waiting for them in the field and Ben was in the tractor, a dot in the distance, the reassuring hum of the machine just audible. Every time it broke Dad would say that was it – no more tractor. He would say it was a relief because it guzzled more energy than both his children put together, but somehow they always got it working again. Dad said that one day there wouldn’t be any more petrol and then they’d have to do the work by hand. ‘Alby, chickens. They need a run out. And Molly, clean out the pigs. OK?’
They looked at each other, Albert evidently triumphant at the division of labour. ‘See ya! Wouldn’t want to be ya!’ he whispered under his breath as he disappeared towards the chicken coop.
‘Pigs?’ Molly screwed up her face in distaste. ‘Really?’
Her father nodded sternly. ‘Really,’ he said, tousling her hair. ‘Go on.’
She sighed and wandered over to the pigsty. It was large enough for fifty pigs, but they only had twenty. Dad had told her that they used to keep a hundred pigs, all penned together. That was what Molly thought the world must have been like before – people all squashed up with no space to move. Dad said that people had used too much energy and the world had been heating up, but Molly thought it was just that they didn’t have enough room. Sometimes, when they were younger, Alby used to sleep in her bed when he was scared, and she always ended up throwing off the blankets.
Quickly she set about sweeping the sty, filling the troughs with food and water. Then she played with the piglets for a few minutes, being careful not to antagonise their mother. Lastly, looking around to check that no one could see her, she dug out her notebook. She carried her notebook everywhere – it had been a fourteenth birthday present from her mother. In it, she would record interesting events such as the monthly town debates where all the grown-ups would get together and argue about things like land division and use of old stock and whether wells were the property of the community or the landowner. Once you were fourteen you were encouraged to go to the debates and learn about how things worked, and while Ben dismissed them as boring Molly like to write down everything she heard and think about it later. She also drew pictures in her notebook and listed her hopes, her fears, her desires and her views on other people.
She flicked over the pages, stopping every so often to reread a passage she was particularly proud of, like the one on Stock. Her parents had recently told her all about Stock warehouses, where things from before were kept, like petrol and watches and tissues and books. They’d been put there by the Authorities just before the Handover. You had to buy the things from the town leader, paying with food or Community Work, but her parents said one day the warehouses would be empty because no one could make those things any more. They said Uncle Jude was trying to start a training programme but no one wanted to take part. They said that the grown-ups didn’t like the idea of training because it brought back bad memories of how things used to be.
She continued turning the pages until she got to her favourite picture. It was a rubbing and her mother had taught her how to do it, taking an object and putting it under the paper and rubbing the other side with a pen so that the object was revealed like a picture. She’d tried it with a few things, none of which had looked very pretty, and then her dad had given her his ring and let her rub the engraving. It was beautiful – a flower, so delicate, so beautifully drawn.
The picture was very important, Dad had told her – it represented Renewal, which meant new replacing old. Like the green leaves that come through in the spring, he’d said, and the old ones falling to the ground. Molly had nodded sagely when he’d told her, but secretly she’d thought he was wrong. It didn’t represent Renewal – it represented something else, something she didn’t understand yet but would figure out one day, she was sure. Because what her father didn’t seem to have noticed was that the picture was made out of letters and symbols, like the
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